Bedtime is such a hot topic when you have kids. This is especially true with the first one, as we often seek advice from everyone around us and our doctors on what’s a good bedtime. The truth is it depends.
Clearly, it’s not good to let your kid stay up all night and then wake them up a 5 am, but typically the bedtimes vary between 7pm and 10pm on weeknights based on discussions I’ve had with friends. On the weekends, I’m not sure what my friends do as I haven’t really asked. Frankly, I let my son stay up late on weekends if we don’t have anywhere to go in the morning. We have movie night and we play games. We get a lot of time to bond and just relax, which doesn’t happen a lot during the week because I work and he goes to school. So, it’s nice not of have the pressure of time on the weekend.
When my son was an infant, everyone had multiple opinions on what time I should put my kid to bed. Before my son turned one his typical bedtime was about 7:30 pm. That would give me time after work to bond with him through play, feed him and bath him, before lights out. After he turned one and a half his bed time moved to around 8ish, and then after two years old it moved to 9ish. Now at four years old it’s around 9:30ish.
His bed time moved later and later because I got tired of laying down with him for an hour or more and the kid was still awake. Seriously, the earlier I made the bedtime the later he would stay up, sometimes two or three hours later. Once, I started making his bedtime a little later, he would be asleep in 10 to 15 minutes. So that’s what works for me.
It’s interesting because parenting is really an art, you start with this clean slate and you try many things and figure out what works the best for you at any given time. Like art it is always subject to change, and everybody has multiple ways to get the job done. I have some friends that make their kids go to bed by 7:30pm come hell or high water and that kid better not get up. This was my parents style when I was a kid. My parenting style is not that strict, but I don’t knock people for doing what they need to do. Let’s face it, sometimes you need a break from kids and sleep or them being in bed is the only way to achieve that.
My son doesn’t not stay in bed if you try to get him to sleep alone. He keeps getting up and has a million excuses. I find that laying down with him for 10-20 minutes so he can go to sleep saves everyone a lot of agony. Half the time I fall asleep too, causing me to get much needed rest that I would not get if he was willing to painlessly sleep in his bed alone. My son usually wakes up at some point in the early morning and gets in my bed and goes back to sleep. I don’t mind even though he sleeps wild sometimes, because I know one day I’m going to miss these moments. My belief is that as he gets bigger he will not need me as a security blanket or I can replace his need with a pet.
I think too often, we try to force this independence that is unnatural. I don’t like to sleep alone, so why would I expect that my child would. I like the company of other people and pets when humans aren’t available. 😉 When I was a kid I hated to sleep alone. I often would get into my sister’s bed. Then when my parents divorced and my sister went with my mom and me with my dad, it was hard adapting to sleeping alone. When I was in College I had my own place and that’s when I came to terms with the fact that I hate living alone. When I graduated I pretty much had roommates all the time, including boyfriends and dogs. I loved having dogs because they will sleep with you no problem and they don’t snore for the most part. 😉
So, I guess my point is, I think when accessing bedtime, you should look at several factors:
- What time does your child wake up in the morning? If they wake up super early to go school then you don’t want them staying up super late, because they will be tired in the morning.
- Does your child take naps at school? If your child has naps at school, you can factor that into the amount of nighttime sleep hours needed. You might find that there is a reason your child won’t go to bed early, because maybe they are getting too much sleep.
- What is your mental state? If having kids seems overwhelming (especially for single moms) at times and you really need a break because you don’t have a lot of patience, maybe it’s healthy to have an early bedtime so you get much needed time to yourself. Self-care is important as a parent, you need to have balance to be able to be a good resource for your little ones.
- Do you need more intimate time with your spouse or partner? It’s important not to completely neglect your adult relationships, thus you may not let your child stay up later if that’s the only opportunity you have for alone time with your partner. It’s a balancing act, but maintaining healthy adult relationships is important.
- Does your child willingly go to bed early and wake up at reasonable time in the morning? A lot of my friends who send their kids to bed early have kids that wake up at the crack of dawn. Thus, if you are not an early morning person then you might want your child to go to bed a little later, so they are not up super early.
- Is your child a cranky mess at bedtime or are they constantly getting up or playing quietly in their room at bedtime? You need to observe your child’s level of tiredness when they are going to bed. If it’s too late they might be a cranky nightmare at bedtime. If it’s too early they will probably keep getting up and end up playing in their room while you think they are in bed.
As I said in the beginning, bedtime depends on a lot of factors and the time may not match what your pediatrician suggests. Thus, you should use your own common sense and go with what is reasonable for your family. There are many articles out there on the internet that give suggestions on the amount of sleep hours needed by age. Those articles can provide perspective as to whether your child is getting enough sleep or too much, if you believe what they say.
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